To become successful and achieve our goals, we have to eliminate things that hold us back and prevent us from growth. One of such things is fear, which is often a number one enemy of our success and happiness. Although fear is just an emotion, it may have a vastly negative impact on our lives - both personal and professional.
Fear not only undermines our chances of success by making us perform less effectively (or pushing us to stop acting), it also serves as a limiting factor that doesn’t allow us to enjoy and live life to the full.
In this article, I’m going to talk about the most common fears that sabotage our success and also suggest the ways how to overcome those fears.
Fear of failure
Fear of failure is a number one killer of our motivation, enthusiasm and productivity. It serves as a stop sign since many people regard failure as a direct vindication of their inability to achieve their goals, do something remarkable, live up to their dreams. Failure undermines their self-belief, lowers self-esteem and makes them feel inferior. How often do we hear, “I’m a complete failure”?
"I have not failed. I've just found 10000 ways that won't work. - Thomas A. Edison.
But the truth is that failure doesn’t mean the end. If we change the way we look at it, we will have all chances to achieve whatever we want.
First and foremost, we have to realize that every failure teaches us great lessons. Therefore, it is important to analyze each situation that didn’t work and try to figure out the reasons why. So, what it really means is that we have to keep trying, and each time we try we have to do it smarter by taking into account lessons learned.
I quite like this quote from Bill Cosby, “In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure." It makes us ask one really good question, “Do I really want to succeed?”.
“Do you want to succeed?” Ask yourself this question. Think about why you want to succeed, why you started. Think about the reasons why you want it so badly that such thing as failure won’t be able to get in your way or be a major setback.
You have to feel such a great passion for success that no such thing as fear of failure can hold you back. Only in this case you’ll be able to overpower your fear of failure and, ultimately, achieve what you want.
Fear of success
Doesn’t it sound counterintuitive that we may be afraid of success? As it turns out, fear of success is no less common than fear of failure. It can be related to that fact that success brings with it greater responsibility, attracts more attention to our persona, results in change.
And what is the most interesting is that in many cases we even don’t realize that we are afraid of success. On the one hand, we work hard to become successful. On the other hand, the closer we get to success, the more anxious we become. Why?
For some people the reason may lie in their low self-esteem. They feel that they want success, but they think that they don’t deserve it. This results in constant dissatisfaction and inability to enjoy the outcome even if it is good.
Why is it bad? It is bad, because once person starts seeing positive results, such inner conflict of thoughts as ‘I don’t deserve it” or “I’m not good enough for it” may prevent person from taking further actions and he/she will feel stuck. So, the key here is to start working on self-esteem.
Another reason why we may be afraid of success is a belief that it will radically change our life. And change can be quite painful, because we got used to live in our comfort zones. Success is attractive, but achieving success means that we have to leave our comfort zones. This may result in our greater resistance to change even if it is a positive change.
Also, one of the most common reasons why people can be afraid of success is that fact that success may not last for long. To tell the truth, no matter how successful we may become, we should never dwell on it. We have to keep moving forward, achieve more, learn more and become more. As Winston Churchill once said, “Success isn’t final, failure isn’t fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Fear of uncertainty
We can’t predict what the future holds for us. Even if we make attempts to predict a certain outcome, in many cases things turn out to be quite different. As a result, we may feel like losing our control despite the fact that we are at the helm. It is especially common when we step on the road less traveled by or start doing something we never did before. However, the fear of uncertainty is present in our daily lives too. We like to plan things in advance and live up to our plans, but when it happens that certain things change we start to panic.
Recently one of my friends published a book called The Art of Being Remarkable. And I quite like his opinion on this matter, “Too detailed and too clearly defined goals and plans will usually make you too static, inflexible and you might miss out on some of the greatest and most life changing experiences.” So, the only way to overcome the fear of uncertainty is to become more flexible. Flexibility pays off, because it will allow you to come up with new solutions when unpredictable issues occur or when situation takes a different direction.
Fear of criticism
The more successful we become, the more we will be criticized no matter how good we are or how well we perform. It’s simply impossible to please the whole world and make everyone like you since we all are different and we have different points of view, different experiences and backgrounds. So, it makes no sense to be afraid of criticism since it is inevitable part of the process. But what you can do is to capitalize on it.
As David Brinkley said, “A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” Whether you realize it or not, criticism can open your eyes on many things and can make you look at things from a different angle. People who give you a constructive criticism can help you pay attention to things that you often overlooked, but which were actually important. So, instead of letting criticism slowly kill you, you have to learn to discern what criticism will bring you value and what criticism is better to defy.
Fear of responsibility
Very often we refuse to do certain things not because it is hard to do them, but because doing them requires to embrace responsibility. If you are a leader, you have to embrace responsibility for your team and your company. If you are a parent, you have to embrace responsibility for your kids. Greater responsibility means more duties. And it’s a baggage we have to carry whether we like it or not. And we can’t delegate it to someone else.
Why are we afraid of responsibility? There may be several reasons: we think that we don’t have enough experience, we believe that certain role requires more than we can actually give or do, we are not sure whether this is the right moment to embrace such responsibility, etc.
We have to prepare ourselves for this role mentally. And the only way to overcome the fear of responsibility is to start taking actions. Of course, we can’t embrace a large responsibility immediately, but we can prepare ourselves for this role step-by-step. As Dale Carnegie said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Actions breed confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
Fear of rejection
“Most fears of rejection rest on the desire for approval from other people. Don't base your self-esteem on their opinions. - Harvey Mackay
Rejection, just like criticism, can be painful if we are constantly seeking for approval and accolade. On the other hand, if we learn to manage our response to rejection and start looking at it as a possible tool for growth, we can not only overcome the fear of rejection, but also make positive changes in our personal and professional lives.
Check out my article How to Turn Rejection into the Tool for Growth to learn how to handle rejection effectively.
by Natalie Myhalnytska